Kenya-UK to establish joint committee on Covid-19 travel restrictions

UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab and Foreign Affairs CS Amb Raychelle Omamo in Nairobi on January 20,2021/ OMAMO

Kenya and the UK will establish a Joint Emergency Committee to address Covid-19 emergency travel restrictions following talks by the respective foreign secretaries.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo on Wednesday held talks with her UK counterpart Dominic Raab days after an ugly diplomatic fallout over travel restrictions.

The UK High Commission in Nairobi and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two had “positive deliberations” and underlined the need to work on strengthening trade and deepening regional security.

“They discussed the strength of our relationship – on trade, regional security, and health – and agreed to establish a Joint Committee to work together on addressing Covid-19 travel restrictions,” the UK High Commission tweeted.

The developments follow Kenya’s move on Saturday to place strict conditions for UK nationals travelling to Kenya.

In a strong worded statement, Nairobi said the decision to add Kenya to UK’s Covid-19 travel ‘red list’ was ‘discriminatory’ and lacked ‘logic and scientific knowledge of the disease or the spread of the pandemic’.

The UK had on Friday announced that Kenyans or anybody transiting through Kenyan airports was banned from setting foot in the UK starting April 9 citing the South African virus variant.

Nairobi responded by directing that any passenger from the UK would be quarantined for 14 days at their own cost, be required to produce negative Covid-19 certificate and a valid vaccine certificate.

Consequently, Kenya Airways on April 5 announced suspension of passenger flights between Kenya and the UK effective April 9 until further notice. Due to the demand of for travel to the UK before the deadline, KQ added two new flights on Wednesday and Thursday.

In its letter, Kenya regretted that UK’s decision came at a time the two states were enjoying “a strong and long-lasting relationship that has multiple dimensions including health, education, security, travel, trade and people-to-people relations.”

Why so?

Diplomacy scholar Dr Patrick Maluki argues that coronavirus has brought a sense of nationalism among states.

“Countries have started looking inwards, which is a very unfortunate situation because you know what happened in 1920s during the economic slump in the world was because of countries restricting movements,” Maluki said.

Dr Maluki noted that there is a scare of infections forcing countries to look at national security from a wider perspective. “This is where Britain was coming from and it had a right and duty to protect its citizens.

He, however, noted that there should have been better consultations and a more targeted kind of restriction for instance being screening before departure.

Noting that UK’s move was too harsh — affecting all Kenyans — Nairobi was left with no option but to retaliate.

Institute of Economic Affairs CEO Kwame Owino told KTN News that UK’s first move was unnecessary and it resulted in the way Kenya acted.

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